The protests that have been taking place around the world demonstrate support for the people of Gaza; not one banner showed support for the Hamas movement. Any human being that hopes for peace cannot, consciously or unconsciously, support a movement that targets civilians, and this is what happened in the Gaza Strip when Hamas “purged” Gaza of all of its political opponents.
The protestors did not carry pictures of Khaled Mishal or Ismail Haniyeh; the images of Gamal Abdul Nasser were held high at a number of protests in London, even though Nasser was an Arab nationalist, and Hamas’s ideology opposes that.
Another conspicuous issue is that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni were members of the Ariel Sharon government that unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, whilst today they are spearheading the military campaign against Gaza.
In his speech broadcast on Saturday evening on Syrian state television, Khalid Mishal, the political leader of the Hamas movement, said that the [military] campaign against Gaza has dashed any hopes for peace. Yet many others say that the Hamas movement – along with the Hamas leadership itself that admits its rejection of the peace process – has played a key role in destroying any hopes for peace when it began suicide operations in April 1994. These operations were one of the main reasons behind the construction of the Israeli security wall [surrounding Gaza].
Mishal’s televised speech emulated [speeches delivered by] the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Yet on Tuesday evening, through his sermon, Ismail Haniyeh appeared to be attempting to pull the rug from under Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi. In the middle of this sermon Haniyeh expressed his readiness to accept a ceasefire, [a position] contradicting Mishal who said that even though he was pained by the deaths of innocent civilians, conflict requires sacrifice.
Haniyeh’s speech revealed that there is a split within the Hamas leadership; this division began when Hamas sent two delegations [one representing the leadership in Damascus, another representing the Gazan leadership] to Cairo on Sunday, and sharp differences in their positions emerged. The head of the Egyptian intelligence service General Omar Suleiman revealed that conditions for a ceasefire agreement include the establishment of a system to prevent weapons and missiles from being smuggled into Gaza through the tunnels, and Hamas conducting political negotiation with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.
In the meantime, the people of the afflicted Gaza Strip were left wondering when a ceasefire would be reached.
The Hamas delegation representing Mishal [in Cairo] returned to Damascus, and Iranian Vice President Hossein Dahkane made a request to the Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika that he encourage “Arab countries” to convene an emergency summit to discuss the Israeli attack on Gaza. As if Arab countries have just been sitting around watching and doing nothing!
It also emerged that Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim was calling for a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss the Gaza tragedy (this turned into calls for convening an emergency Arab summit) and yet after this he called for
“non-interference in Palestinian affairs.”
Iran believes that it can make Egypt yield and open the Rafah Crossing without setting conditions by [using] Hamas and the increasing number of Gaza’s victims. Syria wants to hold the Arab summit, regardless of who attends, to take the Palestinian initiative out of Egypt’s hands. Whilst Qatar, the go-between, embarrassed and ignored, is flirting with Syria, complying with Iran, and marketing Hamas, all due to its rivalry with Saudi Arabia. The Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister said the Israeli trade office in Doha would be closed when there is a collective Arab decision [to cut ties with Israel].
Iran and Syria both know that a Hamas defeat in Gaza will weaken their position with the new American administration and in the region in general. The majority of the Hamas leadership in Damascus are not free [to do as they please] as Iranian funding does not come without clauses. Haniyeh previously said, “Iran represents the strategic depth of the Palestinians,” while Mishal said, “Iran’s role in the future of Palestine should continue and increase,” and that now is the time for this [role] to be implemented, even if it costs thousands of lives.
Despite the bloodshed and destruction [taking place in Gaza], voices in America, Israel and some Arab countries can be heard calling for dialogue between Israel and Hamas, and calling for the leaders in Hamas and Israel to be pragmatic rather than courageous in order to solve their problems.
A British intellectual told me that the issue today is not about reaching an agreement with the Hamas movement which does not recognize the rights of Jews and Christians to exist in Palestine; the issue is that there are Palestinians being killed daily, and the Israelis are living in fear of rocket attacks, and the Christians are migrating.
Many countries in the world are demanding that Hamas relinquish its position of not recognizing Israel’s right to exist. Those who know Hamas say that it has not done this after witnessing the “Fatah” experience. Fatah signed the Oslo Accords which stated that they must recognize Israel’s [right to exist], but the result [of the Oslo Accords] was chaos and a divided state where people are not free to run their lives.
A source revealed to me that during meetings with the Hamas leadership, the source realized that [officially] recognizing Israel would come at the end of negotiations, not at the beginning. It gave the following example; if the former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair or John Major engaged in a dialogue with Sinn Fein and the IRA [and demanded they recognize British sovereignty] at the beginning of negotiations, they would not have achieved anything in Northern Ireland. When Blair spoke with the moderates there he did not achieve anything, but when he spoke with the militants on both the Protestant and Catholic sides, together they entered a successful peace process. People argue that the British had lived under the terror of IRA bombs for more than twenty years and yet never launched devastating air strikes on Northern Ireland.
Last week The Guardian published an article reporting that Barack Obama’s administration is thinking of opening lines of communication, direct or indirect, with the Hamas movement. Aaron David Miller, who worked with the Clinton administration, said that dialogue with Hamas may be part of a strategy to reconcile the movement with Fatah, along with association with Israel. He said, “Dialogue between America and Hamas may be important and necessary, but if it happens now it will disrupt the position of Mahmoud Abbas, and leave behind the Israelis. With Obama’s economic priorities, such a dialogue will disturb [Obama’s] presidential politics.”
Therefore Aaron David Miller believes that the opportunity for Obama to open direct or indirect talks with Hamas may not be available at present. In response to Obama himself saying that he will find ways of opening dialogue with enemies of America, Aaron David Miller said, “The problem is that there are two types of enemies of America; countries like Iran or Syria, and groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. It is not in America’s record to engage with organizations that are not countries, especially when these organizations are in conflict with America, and are enemies of allies and friends of America.” “I believe that Obama is sincere in his intentions to engage with the enemies of America, starting with [opening] serious dialogue with Iran (which he confirmed in a television interview with ABC) and this is what he will do, as well as expanding America’s relationship with Damascus,” he said.
Aaron David Miller explained the depth of the problem, that the Palestinians are divided; the peace process cannot move forward until there is only one Palestinian authority, and one negotiating delegation. Until Palestinian politics is united there can be no solution to the Palestinian-Israeli problem. “I am not sure that anyone in London or Washington or Cairo or Tel Aviv or Gaza has an answer now,” he added.
There must be moderates in Hamas who are aware that any solution in the Middle East will require US intervention. Syria knows this and is waiting for the new [US] administration to re-establish communication with Israel. Syria “suspended” negotiations but did not say that it had ended them altogether. Iran also knows this, and is waiting for Obama’s arrival, and will greet him with a new Iranian president.
Propaganda does not feed anyone or satisfy hunger. The Palestinian cause must not be brought to an end, and this is the card that is being used by Iran and Syria to support their argument that they are the only two countries able [to fulfil this] either by providing a solution, or by spreading terror and instability. This may be an opportunity for Ismail Haniyeh or Mohamed Nazal [member of Hamas politburo], or even Khaled Mishal.
The Palestinian people in Gaza are the ones who are dying and whose houses are being destroyed. All of those who demonstrated [for Gaza around the world] returned to their homes to sleep in their beds assured of their own security provided by their own country or the country that they live in. It is time for the children of Gaza to go [back] to school, wear clean and warm clothes, and eat fresh food. Peace is not a defeat, it is the future. The moderates within the Hamas movement must first pray to God to provide them with the wisdom and courage to take a bold decision to save their people. It was these people who elected Hamas on the basis that it would rescue the people from the corruption of Fatah, and provide them with a decent life, not embroil them in a disproportionate war. The Palestinians deserve national reconciliation.